More Small Turbines For GA? GE Buys Walter Engines

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GE Aviation has acquired assets of Walter Engines, the Czech turboprop manufacturer, for an undisclosed sum of less than $70 million, GE spokeswoman Deborah Case told the International Herald Tribune. The move affords GE a stake in the small turboprop aircraft market, where it previously had none, and the ability do battle for business with Pratt & Whitney Canada -- taking aim specifically on the PT6 engine. Walter is currently nearly one percent the size of Pratt & Whitney but "whatever win we can get from the market ... it's more than we have now," said Case. GE plans to make substantial investments in Walter and this July is expected to introduce an improved version of Walter's most popular engine, according to a report in The Wall Street Journal. A spokesman for Pratt & Whitney Canada told The Associated Press that the company takes all competition "very seriously," but "I don't see where there's much competition from someone one percent [our] size..."

With fuel costs rising, the speed, efficiency and reliability offered by turboprop aircraft led to a slight rise in shipments in Q1 of 2008, according to the General Aviation Manufacturers Association, while the piston engine segment suffered a year-over-year drop of 28 percent.